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Dana

Dana joined the iCarol team in 2013 after 12 years of direct service and administrative duties at a blended 2-1-1/crisis intervention/suicide prevention center. As the Communications and Social Media Manager at iCarol, you'll find her presenting Webinars, Tweeting, Blogging, Facebooking, and producing other materials that aid helplines in their work.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

A youth’s teen years can be such an exciting time in her or his life. Enjoying some independence for the first time, beginning to plan for and think about the future ahead, and of course often this is a time when youth first experience romantic relationships and even love.

Unfortunately this is not a positive experience for all teens. According to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, one in three adolescents is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. According to the organization Break the Cycle, teens that experience abuse in a relationship are more likely to abuse drugs, drop out of school, engage in high-risk sexual behavior, act violently and even attempt suicide. The repercussions of such dating experiences as a teen can unfortunately follow them into adulthood as well, as without the proper support and intervention they typically find it difficult to change those abusive patterns as they become adults, and thus are more likely to continue to experience abuse in their adult relationships.

It’s important that we spread awareness of the issue, as lack of awareness is contributing to the prevalence of the problem. According to one study, 81% of parents say that they don’t think teen dating violence is an issue or they admit they don’t know if it’s an issue. And only one third of teens who experience this type of relationship ever tell a trusted adult about it. It’s up to us to recognize the signs and engage youth on the topic.

Check out the infographic below for even more about teen dating violence, as well as these great sources of information so that members of your community can learn more about Teen Dating Violence and how to prevent it:

About Teen Dating Violence Month

Love Is Respect

Break the Cycle

Speak Out Against Teen Dating Violence
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iCarol Webinar: Enhancement Review and Future Plans

Webinars w gray

We’re committed to providing excellent communication about iCarol capabilities, updates, and planned enhancements on regular basis. So, we’d like to invite you to join us for our quarterly review of recent enhancements, as well as a peek at what’s ahead, in a 30-minute webinar this Thursday.

In this fast-paced webinar, we’ll go over the newest ways you can streamline your day with new tools sprinkled throughout iCarol. Hosted by Shelley, our product manager, this is part of a quarterly “new feature review” series. We hope you’ll join us for this webinar on February 5th at 1pm EST.

In this webinar we’ll go over:

  • Quick refresher on 2014 new feature highlights
  • Review recently launched new features
  • Enhancements coming soon
  • How to keep up with new enhancements
  • How you can impact new feature development

Remember, if you’re an Administrator in iCarol, in your Dashboard view, you can also view enhancements and changes in the “Announcements, Tips, and Tricks” and “Release History and Future Plans” sections, but these webinars will go a little further to explain the new features, and allow time for your questions.

We think this webinar will be most beneficial and interesting to current iCarol clients who are Program Managers or Directors and use iCarol at an Administrator security level, or those who are considering subscribing to iCarol. That said, all are welcome to attend. We hope you’ll join us on February 5!

Click here to Register

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What we took away from NOMORE.org’s ad

The famous pro-football championship game that aired last night (honestly, it’s unclear whether we’re allowed to use the trademarked name in our blog, so let’s err on the side of caution, shall we? 🙂 ) is arguably watched for its commercials just as much as it is for the game itself. As usual, this year’s game produced a number of ads that are generating lots of conversation, both good and bad. It was a great year for ads that focused on social awareness. For instance the “Make it Happy” ads by Coca Cola advocate for positivity in response to bullying on the internet and social media. The “Like a Girl” ad reminds society to stop using that phrase as an insult. And after a year of controversy surrounding the NFL’s handling of domestic violence, there were ads tackling that topic as well.

Last week the organization NOMORE.org released a very powerful ad, which was also shown during the game. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out below.

This is easily one of the most compelling, important tv spots I’ve seen in a long time. When I first watched it I felt sad, scared, and anxious as I listened to the exchange between the woman and the 9-1-1 operator. It’s one thing to understand what domestic violence is, but it’s quite another thing to hear the call for help.*

There are several messages I took away from the commercial. How isolating domestic violence is, for instance. Or how resourceful and resilient survivors of domestic violence are. But for me the most resounding message came at the end of the ad with the text on the screen: “When it’s hard to talk, it’s up to us to listen.”

Finding the strength to speak up can be difficult. Finding someone who can listen, who can read between the lines if necessary in order to help — that’s even harder. And we know that helpline workers use their expert skills to do this with clients every day, not just when it comes to domestic violence, but in identifying child abuse, or thoughts of suicide. You’re able to weed through their words, to pick up on the slightest hint of what’s below the surface, and uncover the deeper issue.

But there are lots of times when a verbal conversation just isn’t possible at all. The woman portrayed in the ad was able to make an excuse to use the phone, and cleverly found a way to call for help without her abuser realizing it. There’s a reason why efforts are underway to enable texting to 9-1-1. Local law enforcement and emergency services are recognizing that in some situations, a phone call is dangerous or impossible.

More and more, help seekers reach out via chat or text instead of a phone call, too. Sometimes because of personal preference, and sometimes because silence is necessary. The instance shown in the ad is just one example; certainly chat or text has been used by those affected by domestic violence to reach out for online emotional support, or even receive emergency rescue during a violent incident. But there are other scenarios where this might be needed, and they may not all be as dire as the call in the commercial.

Think of the teen who wants to discreetly discuss his sexuality without risking a parent or sibling listening in on the conversation. Or the young woman at a party who is feeling anxious and upset, but can’t verbalize that to the friends she’s with and doesn’t want others to overhear. A child may have just been bullied in the hallway at school, and they find it much easier to hop on a library computer for a chat session than it is to make a phone call.

There are plenty of instances where someone needs to talk, but they can’t say the words outloud. It’s important that we be there to listen through the channels the help seekers want to use.

* While the call in the commercial feels very real, it is actually a re-enactment of a real call to 9-1-1

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Just Your Type

Internal Chat copyIf you haven’t had a chance to check out the new Internal Chat feature, please consider giving it a try. We launched it a couple of weeks ago, and have been hearing how it’s helping centers get rid of passing paper notes, avoid putting callers on hold, fosters a greater sense of community, and just helps day-to-day communications.

Bottom line, it’s a convenient new way to exchange short, typed messages with colleagues, right from the security of your iCarol screens.

It’s available at no extra cost now, to all subscribers. For more information on how to turn it on and enable staff, and other functions, check out the help videos for more information, or register for our February 4th webinar.

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When Wintry Weather Wreaks Havoc on your Helpline

blizzard

With a blizzard moving up the north east coast today and tomorrow, many helplines in its path are brainstorming ways to keep their services up and running. Snowy and icy conditions can spell trouble for seamless shift coverage. How do you keep your hotline operating in spite of dangerous travel conditions for your volunteers and staff?

Depending on the severity of the storm, you may have no special plan at all except to tell workers they are expected to be there for their shift or find a substitute to cover for them. In many snow storms, travel is possible so long as precautions are taken, such as driving at slower speeds and being extra vigilant. Call centers in urban settings may also benefit from having volunteers living within walking distance or taking public transportation.

But sometimes travel conditions can become extremely hazardous or even impossible. What then? Here are some methods we’ve commonly seen:

  • The show must go on – Shifts go on as scheduled no matter what. Workers who realize they can’t make it in must give ample notice and find substitutes who are able to travel. If all else fails, the task falls to an essential staff of supervisors or managers to keep things running.

  • Transfer your calls – In some instances there may be a partner agency, satellite office of your program, or a back-up center in an area unaffected or less affected by the weather, and they can take the calls for a period of time. Our Call Report form sharing functionality makes it easy for you to pass your calls on to other centers, while they use your preferred call report form to log the calls they’re taking on your behalf.

  • Work from home – Technology has made it easier than ever to turn any setting into a call center, even your worker’s home. Calls could get forwarded to that worker’s personal phone or a phone loaned to them from the office. Using iCarol, chats or texts can be taken from virtually anywhere as well. Special tip for iCarol users who might employ this method: You must either turn off ‘Restriction’ (the feature that makes it so your workers can’t see call reports from a personal computer outside the office) or give your worker permissions to install the iCarol Certification Tool on their computer. You can read more about this here.

  • Camping out – Marshmallows optional. When the forecast calls for dangerous weather and snow accumulations that might make travel impossible, make a decision ahead of time to suspend the usual schedule, and instead have a crew arrive prior to hazardous road conditions developing. This crew will stay for a period of time until travel is safe again and shifts can resume. You’ll need sufficient kitchen and bathroom facilities, and workers should bring food. If this goes on for longer than the typical shift length, your crew can set up their own internal shifts of who works and who gets a break. By following the weather and traffic reports, the Director can decide when it’s time for normal shifts to resume.

Do you handle scheduling in wintry weather some other way? We’d love to hear about it! Leave us a comment!

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“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” Nominated for an Academy Award

Veteran's HelplinesThe HBO Documentary “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” first aired on HBO over a year ago, and at the Academy Award Nominations on Thursday morning, they announced that the film was among the nominees for Best Short Subject Documentary! Congrats to the filmmakers for being nominated for Hollywood’s most prestigious award.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, the film is definitely worth checking out. It’s an intimate look at suicide prevention hotline work. The documentary highlights the work of the call center in Canadaigua, NY that answers the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s phone line operated specifically for veterans at risk of suicide. The documentary features harrowing footage of crisis responders working to find anonymous callers in imminent danger, and the quiet and touching moments between the empathetic workers who listen without judgment and the veterans reaching out for help. It’s available for purchase and rent, or HBO subscribers can watch via HBO GO.

This is a truly well-made film that shines a light on the hard work of suicide prevention lines, and the struggles faced by members of the military. I know I’ll be cheering it on when I’m watching the Oscars this February.

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January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

It’s hard to fathom that slavery still exists in these modern times, but the truth is human trafficking and slavery is a $32 billion industry. It’s also the fastest growing and second largest criminal activity in the world. Just some of the types of slavery and/or human trafficking include forced participation in armed conflicts, prostitution, child pornography, and sweatshop work. While people of all genders and ages can fall victim, sadly children are especially vulnerable and subject to victimization.

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. The infographic below outlines some facts on the topic. And check out these 20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking.

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Why we should work to debunk the myth about suicide and the holidays

I distinctly remember the first time I learned the truth about a common myth related to suicide. It was nearly 14 years ago, and I was sitting with my fellow would-be hotline volunteers in our training class, ready to tackle the lesson we were all most nervous about: Suicide. We filled out a pre-test, designed to gauge our base knowledge about the topic, and see what sorts of preconceptions we were bringing with us to our volunteer experience. The true or false quiz seemed simple enough to me at the time, a college junior who had been through her share of advanced psychology classes and was about a year from graduation, in spite of those classes having provided very little mention of suicide. I arrived at one that gave me pause. “True or False: The suicide rate increases around the holidays.”

Hmmm…

I was a little stumped. “Gosh…I feel like I hear a lot about suicide during the holiday season,” I thought to myself. “And I know I’ve heard that statistic…somewhere. And hey, what time of year is more stressful for people than that whole period between Thanksgiving and the New Year? It makes sense. True.” My pencil checked the box.

Well (spoiler alert!) I was wrong. We all listened intently to the correct answers and found that much of what we thought was true about suicide was, in fact, false. And I remember feeling almost angry about this, like why was this whole topic so taboo, so secretive, that complete fallacies could be out there in the universe parading around as truths all these years. But that particular myth about the holidays was really stuck in my craw.

So stuck, in fact, that it’s become a running joke between me and my husband because he’s been witness to my missionary-like commitment to setting the record straight. I yell at the TV when I see a show reinforcing the myth. We’d be at a party and someone would find out where I worked and inevitably I’d get lots of questions about suicide, mental health, and other topics. Without a doubt someone would ask if it’s true, or make a comment about how more suicides happen around the holidays. My eyes would widen (another potential convert to help spread my gospel of truth!) as I got to explain (my husband might prefer the term “lecture”) that this was false, and that December can actually be a month where there are fewer suicides, but that springtime does seem to be a time where we lose more people to suicide than other times of year.

In addition to the fact that falsehoods in general just bug me, something about this one would set me over the edge, and I think it’s because I feel it’s actually a bit dangerous to have myths such as this one circulating.

Look, I’m glad that there are articles about suicide this time of year, any time of year for that matter, but too many of them use the myth as a means to drive traffic to their site or increase readership without clearly and categorically setting the record straight that there’s really no relationship between suicide and the holiday season. They also tend to leave out important information about prevention, according to a report by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

What ends up happening is that people continue to feel there is a relationship (look at all these articles that come out about suicide in December, it must be true!) and I think, from that, two things happen.

First, attention to the topic of suicide is heightened at a time of year when incidents are typically at their lowest. Again, awareness is a good thing anytime, but where are all these articles during the rest of the year, particularly in springtime through summer when the incidents of suicide actually do increase? We end up with an abundance of articles and material when the myth creates a demand for content yet incidents are at their lowest, and a lack of attention when they’re at their highest in the spring and the public’s heightened awareness and knowledge of prevention methods could especially be put to good use.

Second, I think the perpetration of this myth promotes a sort of romanticism of, or glamorizes the idea of a holiday suicide. While you cannot put the thought of suicide in someone’s head by simply talking about it (another myth we frequently try to squash), irresponsible reporting of suicide in the media can contribute to the contagion phenomenon, which is very real. This idea that the holidays are a “good” time or a normal time to complete one’s suicide plan, or that a person “should” feel extra depressed, lonely, and susceptible to their thoughts of suicide this time of year can put someone already contemplating suicide in an especially vulnerable place.

It’s true that the holidays can be a stressful time of year. For someone who is already lonely, depressed, or otherwise suffering it can be a tough time. But there’s no evidence to suggest that this results in more people ending their own life around the holidays. I hope everyone will join me in what’s become a personal crusade to stop this myth in its tracks, and replace it with more productive information and education towards suicide prevention all year round.

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“It’s a Wonderful Life” As Viewed by the Crisis Worker

Whether you pop in the DVD or catch one of the many showings on television this season, the Frank Capra classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” tops many must-watch lists for holiday viewing. But for those of you who work in crisis and suicide prevention we suspect you view this film through a unique lens…

You know you’re a Crisis Worker watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” if…

  • You comment on how the movie perpetuates the myth that suicide rates go up at Christmastime

  • You’re jealous that Clarence got to see a factual recap of George’s life before talking to him and think about how much that would help you respond to callers

  • You know George’s circumstances aren’t nearly as bad as many of the people you’ve talked to, and yet you still empathize with him and don’t judge him for feeling suicidal

  • You can list all the warning signs that George is giving, and yell at the other characters for not picking up on them

  • Even better, you wish someone would talk to George about his behavior and ask him directly if he was thinking of suicide

  • You praise Mary for calling a family member to talk about how George was behaving, and not keeping his behavior a secret

  • It reminds you of all the people you’ve spoken to that thought their suicide would be what’s best for their family

  • You note that George chose a very high lethality method

  • You wish Clarence would spend more time letting George tell him how he’s feeling and what has him thinking about suicide, instead of shutting him down and telling George he shouldn’t say such things

  • You’re relieved when George finds his reasons for living

  • You’re thankful for the happy ending, but you know that it’s rarely wrapped up so easily

  • You’re reminded of why you do the work you do

Have you had any of these thoughts while watching this classic film? Got any other thoughts to add? We’d love to hear from you, leave us a comment!

And while you may not have wings, we know the countless individuals touched by your caring voices consider you all guardian angels. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to saving lives, during the holidays and all year round.

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World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day. December 1.

December 1st is designated as World AIDS Day, and this year’s theme is “Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation.”

In a blog from the US Department of Health and Human Services, they share that 35 million people are living with HIV worldwide, with 13.6 million receiving critical antiretroviral therapies. And thankfully, new infections are declining yearly. There were 2.1 million new infections in 2013, a 38% decline from new infections reported in 2012. According to the World Health Organization, 70% of new cases each year occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. Access to drugs and diagnostics is absolutely essential to achieving an AIDS-free generation.

The world is making great progress towards having a generation free from AIDS, but much still needs to be done. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS has identified “90-90-90” targets to achieve by 2020. These milestones aim to have 90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of people who know their status receive treatment, and 90% of people on HIV treatment having a suppressed viral load so their immune system remains so strong that they are not infectious. But to achieve those goals and have a lasting response to the worldwide AIDS epidemic, sustaining AIDS/HIV treatment is key.

Currently 1 in 7 people living with HIV/AIDS don’t know they are infected. This means they may be unknowingly passing the virus to sexual partners, and are not accessing life saving treatments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages everyone to get tested and anyone can access listings for testing sites at gettested.cdc.gov. In Canada you can find a local Provincial/Territorial HIV/AIDS hotline here. People can also call their local helpline or Information and Referral center like 211, as they can also typically help people find their local testing site.

Together, through education, prevention, testing, and life saving treatments, we can achieve a generation that is free from AIDS.

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